The Karen who appropriates culture this holiday season

Dear “Karen,” 

My Karen Translator is a service for BIPOC dealing with everyday racism from colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances and more. My Karen Translator aims to shift the burden of education and growth onto white people who have, consciously or unconsciously, acted out white supremacy in any number of ways.

We were recently informed you sell stickers that appropriate Indigenous people and when confronted, you refused to acknowledge the harm you caused or take responsibility for your actions. We’re here to give you an opportunity to reflect on this with the shared goal of fighting white supremacy everywhere it arises, including within oneself. 

We found this incident to have the following “Karen-like” characteristics:

  • Ignorance of the historical and present impacts of 500 years of assimilation of Indigenous culture
  • Inability to understand that you are an oppressor upholding the structural system of settler colonialism by dispossessing the Indigenous peoples of the land you occupy and stealing elements of their culture for your own 
  • Blatant disregard for the significance of the culture you’re appropriating and leveraging the centuries old “Doctrine of Discovery” by erasing any spiritual practices other than Christianity
  • Cultural appropriation; taking what you “like” from another culture and calling it your own with no credit or appreciation given to its creators, in keeping with historical and ongoing oppression
  • White entitlement; broadly assuming that your annual family crafts are more important than respecting another culture and people
  • Participating in capitalism in its truest form: profiting off the work of BIPOC while destroying livelihoods and upholding the system of generational white wealth 
  • Overwhelming defensiveness; refusing to accept feedback and the generous offer to grow in community with a person of color who was willing to have conversations with you
  • Obsession with intent over impact; refusal to see the harm you inflicted and continuing to do exactly what is easy 

It is also important to address that your mention of where you live (“the evergreen rich Bay area”) in your loose attempt at justifying your racist actions is ironic in two ways: 

  • You are currently living on stolen land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, whose history you should know and whose current population you should learn from
  • The Bay area is notorious for its violent history of racial exclusion, gentrification and displacement of BIPOC from the land 

We hope this experience inspires you to act more boldly against racism anywhere it arises and join the life-long fight for Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty. 


My Karen Translator


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